A Clash of Titans: set piece battle with mecha

I am playing around with the idea of doing a short series of special encounters in a magepunk D&D 4e game that are on a massive scale. To impart that sense of scale I wanted the players to pilot large steam-powered mecha. This was inspired by the vehicle sub-games found in many games out there.
Armed with Large Steam powered Battlesuits, battles wading through hordes of enemy infantry or  against colossal enemies have an appropriate sense of scale.
As loads of special rules would bog down play I decided to use monsters as a base and keep the Battlesuits themselves fairly simple. Ideally you could hand the monster card to the players at the start of the night and they could jump right into play with them in hand.

For this set piece battle, the Players have access to Titan Battlesuits (large magic/steam-powered constructs) for a finite number of special encounters.

Although the suits are more efficient than past models that ran entirely on coal and much more cost-effective than models that were wholly magical constructs, the suits require a combination of mundane fuel and magical components to operate making them difficult to field in long draw out conflicts.
The Titans require  fuel to operate limiting operation to 1 Encounter / unit of fuel.

Though the power of the suits are immense, so is the toll of piloting one. The steam and hydraulics that give the suit its strength broil and press the pilot leaving lesser pilots drained and half-cooked. Many young recruits desiring to push their limits and attain glory have been crushed by those very aspirations under the strain of the suit.
At the end of the encounter where a Titan Battlesuit was used, the pilot loses a healing surge for every level the suit exceeds their character level.
(Example: Level 16 suit – Level 12 pilot = 4 surges lost)

Titans have HP, defenses, and bonuses roughly equivalent to the elite monsters of their designated level. At 50% HP (bloodied) the pilot is exposed. While bloodied the Titan and Pilot each take half of any damage dealt.
I decided to work with level 16 as my base for this experiment, but you could easily adjust numbers for any level.

Equipment / Powers

All Chassis are the same, but the equipment will differ. The Titan’s equipment defines its powers and may modify the Titan’s stats.

All Titans have a Battle-fist MBA.
Each Titan will have a modular armament that defines its role.
Each Titan will have a modular device to give it utility.

I have a few sample armaments and devices that have been fitted to the base in the gallery below.

Sample Armaments
Grappling Claw
Shaper Beam
Titan Ballista
Steam Lance
Concussive Blaster

Sample Devices
Reinforced Plates
Hydraulic Jump
Defense Assist
Target Designator
Locomotive Engine


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This is still a rough idea so suggestions, critiques, and questions are welcome.
Let me know what you think.

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4 Responses to A Clash of Titans: set piece battle with mecha

  1. Neil Denton says:

    I imagine this would be fun. Does the gameplay allow for “Empire Stikes Back” style tactics where a good strong rope and a little luck will allow you to trip the Mech’s up? If so how much damage is delt on tripping a mech?

    • 4649matt says:

      I would definitely allow that!
      That would be Hard DC maneuver versus Reflex.
      A successful attempt would leave the target prone and restrained (save ends),
      dealing 3d10 +6 (DMG p.42 FTW) as the maneuver is limited by your supply of rope/cable.

      We could run a scenario with these if you want to give it a test run.

  2. This is such a good way of dealing with mechs in 4e. I like the bloodied effect – it’s a great emulation of giant robot cartoons and movies… it also creates a scenario where the pilot might pass out from the damage before the mech is completely destroyed (again, a great encounter moment, and re-enforces the notion that a mech is only as good as its pilot). I could see this working for a variety of things in D&D from magical golems to illithid crafted biological weapons (I’m thinking Evangelion in the underdark).

    I’ve been looking for a way to incorporate giant robot vehicles in Gamma World and I’m totally going to steal this. I think I’ll make a multi-pilot vehicle (it gets an action, at different initiatives, for each pilot operating the vehicle – sort of like how an Ettin works), probably a Spider Skull walker (since I set my Gamma World game in the Rifts setting).

    I’ve got one question. How do you handle player powers and abilities? Do the mech’s powers replace the pilot’s or are they additive? If I make a huge multi-pilot vehicle I’ll probably rule that the robot itself is blocking terrain so players can’t target anything outside – but I’m curious how you dealt with it.

    • 4649matt says:

      In order to both simplify things and to reduce the possibility of a single unanticipated power breaking things, I was envisioning that players only had access to the abilities of their mech.
      For the encounters I have planned, both the mechs and the opposition are higher level than the players, so the powers in play are more powerful than what they have access to.
      If the players want access to their powers you could allow them to eject giving up their turn and move out from the mech, but then they have to deal with stronger opposition.

      Using the bloodied effect, you can have an NPC minion pilot that pops as soon as bloodied is hit and just leaves an inoperable hulk standing there. This would highlight the difference betwen the NPCs and the players that much more.
      Letting each player have actions on different initiative passes sounds like a solid way to go for multiple players in a vehicle. You might even break down actions based on what capacity they are piloting the mech. A pilot having access to movement powers, a gunner having access to artillery power, and so on, but everyone has access to some shared abilities.

      Thanks, and if you use this idea, let me know how it goes.

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